An old friend asked me how was I going to spend Tuesday night, out on the town or at home with friends. I affirmed the latter, that we plan to hunker down and shelter in place, with hot buttered popcorn and our favorite adult beverage, as the states report their totals. And on C-SPAN, not MSNBC (which we only have via radio), ABC, CBS, PBS, or Fox.
Let’s travel back in time.
I remember the ’68 elections, not so much for the candidates, but for the tempestuousness of the primaries and the conventions. A leading candidate had been assassinated, another had been shot on the campaign trail, and the eventual winner, a former vice president, was running against the incumbent vice president. And it was 1968. And I was all of twelve years old.
’72 was memorable. I was taking a social studies one-semester course, The U.S. Today, and we had regular heated discussions about politics. Dudley Sr. High had just integrated the year before, and the racial polarization of the ’72 campaign tended to inflame many of our class discussions. Watergate had happened, and it was absolutely clear that Nixon was guilty as heck. The voters elected him anyway. And we know how that all ended.
The first national election I participated in as a voter was in 1976. Bicentennial. Saw the play in ’73 (1776) and the movie that summer in Chicago, All the President’s Men. It was so easy to pull that lever and vote for the Sunday School teacher. A no-brainer. It was my sophomore year, and I voted in Curtis Hall on A&T’s campus where I was a student.
I voted for Jimmie Carter again in 1980, this time by absentee ballot from the Sub Base in Groton, CT. When you don’t actually go to the polls to vote, it all seems a bit abstract. 1984 was also abstract, and again I voted by absentee ballot, this time deployed on the USS Michigan. I think I may have even voted for a third party candidate, maybe a fourth party candidate. It was THAT abstract. And the off years don’t really count, right?
By 1988, I was a naval officer and a declared Republican. It was issued in my seabag. I voted for Bush and the dream of a 600-ship navy.
Bush washed out, but I wasn’t about to vote for a draft dodger. In ’92, I had just joined State, where it seemed EVERYBODY was a Democrat. The draft dodger won.
’96 memories are hazy. I was at the London Embassy, and a full time student at SOAS, and dizzy as a sprayed cockroach. I think the draft dodger won again, but don’t quote me on it.
2000. The election of the hanging chad. We had just departed Angola and arrived in Ghana. The Ghanaians were also having elections that fall and part of my job was organizing motorpool trips for embassy election observers all over the country. The whole Bush v Gore thing was a bit of a disappointment for me as it seemed Gore gave up too soon. People underestimate the strength of the ship of state sometimes, I think.
Something screwy happened to the votes in Ohio in 2004. I supported Kerry. He lost after being swift-boated.
I got onboard with the winner early in 2008. From Baghdad I sent checks to the Obama folks to defeat the draft dodger’s wife. Once he got the nomination, it wasn’t even a contest against the admiral’s son and the crazy lady from Alaska.
And 2012 was an off-election. They don’t really count, do they?